Last year, a Michigan-based art studio opened its doors to special needs adults in an effort to combat the high levels of isolation and depression in the Detroit suburban area.
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Bassie and Levi Shemtov began their work to help the special needs community in 1994 when they launched the Friendship Circle, an organization dedicated to finding companionship and support for kids dealing with everything from cerebral palsy to autism. Since the organization’s launch, they have had the wonderful opportunity of watching their students grow into adults and out of the program, the couple told the Detroit Free Press.
Over the years, the Shemtovs heard countless stories of individuals with special needs who also suffered from depression and loneliness, and decided that they needed to take action.
That’s when the Shemtovs created the Dresner Foundation Soul Studio, a West Bloomfield-based facility that offers a variety of activities and even job opportunities for special needs students.
By the end of April, the studio had about 60 adults participating in their creative art programs and other activities such as music, sewing, working with fiber, photography and painting.
The studio has become a safe haven for many people in the special needs community.
The facility, which offers art programs four days a week, also operates a cafe that sells snacks. The “Soul Cafe” is run by adults with special needs and provides these individuals with an opportunity to learn new skills in the food service industry and receive a paycheck for their work.
Art program participants can also earn money by selling their work at gallery shows. Artists who sell their pieces can earn up to 40 percent of the sale.
This creative space is truly changing lives.
Chad Weinbaum, the husband of 37-year-old program participant Elyse, told the Detroit Free Press that his wife was diagnosed with chorea-acanthocytosis, a rare neurological condition, when she was pregnant with their second child. Currently, there is no cure.
It took years for his wife to get properly diagnosed, Weinbaum explained. Seven years ago, when the couple discovered the severity of Elyse’s illness, they were devastated. Elyse felt like she had lost her life’s purpose. But through her work at Soul, she is starting to get that back.
Soul Studio is truly remarkable, offering “a place for people with all kinds of unique challenges in their life,” Weinbaum said.
“[Soul Studio is] a home, and I love it,” Elyse added.
Soul Studio was inspired by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson and was created by the Farber Center and the Dresner Foundation. If you are interested in donating to the organization, please click here.
(H/T: Detroit Free Press)
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